In this study, alternative assessment formats were explored. Students’ perception towards peer- and self-assessment methods and the impact of peers’ feedback on students’ learning activity were evaluated. Students’ view about objectivity of peer assessment and acceptance and seriousness of peer feedback and peer-marking were also questioned.
With regard to the research question focusing on student’s perceptions of self and peer assessment, our results reflected a positive attitude towards the value of self-assessment. Students found that self-assessment affects the outcomes of their learning positively. Regarding students’ perceptions of peer assessments, students found peer feedback acceptable, however the majority reported not to take peer-marking seriously. Peer assessment was also considered not objective by students.
Assessments are one of the crucial component in the process of teaching and learning. The advantages of self- and peer-assessment have been reported by several researchers. According to Zimmerman and Schunk, self-assessment involves a wide range activities of self-regulation which is a core competence required for learning to learn (25). Self-assessment plays an important role in self-regulated learning and can significantly increase the amount of knowledge students can gain from self-regulated learning, such as self-reflection, self-observation, and self-motivation, in which they choose their own learning tasks (26). In peer assessment, students are directly engaged in training self-monitoring, self-evaluation and task-selection skills, in all of which the students have much control over the learning tasks they are engaged in. Researchers also revealed that the self-regulation of the learners who practice both self- and peer-assessment practices improve significantly (27). Beside these advantages, students felt that self- and peer-assessment encouraged them to compare and reflect on their own work; these methods gave them the opportunity to develop collaborative skills, engagement in reflection and exploration of ideas , and enable students to work together in the sense of developing collaborative skills, practicing, planning and teamwork and of (2, 28).
On the other hand, students’ ability to assess each other may influence the objectivity of peer assessment. Ballantyne et al reported that the things students disliked about peer assessment included: questioning peers competency in marking, issues of fairness, and objectivity (28). White also addressed that friendship can play an important role in the objectivity of peer assessment, students may give good scores to close friends and bad scores to others. The fear of peers’ misunderstanding and the possibility of being discriminated against could affect the objectivity of peer assessment (29). Similar to White, in this study, we found students’ negative attitudes towards objectivity of peer assessment. As Yunella (30) concluded, the objectivity of peer assessment can be achieved if students get clear instructions from their teacher. Therefore, teacher intervention about the objectivity of peer assessment plays a crucial role in applying peer assessment (30). In contrast, investigations showed that peer assessment can be a relevant substitute for assessment by a teacher and, can be as objective as teacher assessment (31).
Another disadvantage of peer assessment is that students may not take peer feedback seriously. Our study showed that students found peer feedback acceptable in a positive way, however they do not take peer-marking seriously. The reasons for this could be firstly that students may think that assessing and marking are teacher’s job, and that the teacher is a more experienced assessor, and have more competence in assessment criteria. Secondly that students may not be serious in assessing their peers because of hierarchical thinking, and they may see a teacher as a person with a higher hierarchy than peers. Similarly, the perception that assessment by a teacher is more reliable and more valid than the assessment by the peer may lead students to regard peer feedback, as well as peer marking, not seriously. Furthermore self-assessed grades tend to be higher than staff grades (32). To minimize these concerns, some researchers offered following suggestions: 1) the application of specific criteria (33); 2) transparency in assessment process (7, 34); 3) good instructions and training of students’ assessment skills (35); and 4) the use of scoring matrix (36). Lindblom-Ylänne and her colleagues (2006) investigated whether the use of matrix enhanced the accuracy of self and peer assessment of essays, and found that specific criteria such as critical thinking, use of literature, appearance, length etc., and good instructions for students seemed to enhance the accuracy. They also explored how students and teachers perceive their experiences in relation to these assessments. They reported that teachers found the use of both matrix and self- and peer-assessment in addition to teacher’s assessment of student essays was very positive (12). Other researchers pointed out that there was no significant difference in the overall mark averages given by peers and that given by their teachers, and concluded that peer assessment can be as objective as teacher assessment (23, 37-39).
Self- and peer-assessment can enhance student learning, gain more work-related skills and work-integrated learning (40, 41), and develop taking responsibility for their own learning; a better understanding of the subject matter, and their own values and judgements and critical reflection skills (6, 42, 43). On the other hand, our students found no impact of peer-assessment on both their active and passive learning. The reason could be students’ negative perceptions of the objectivity of peer-assessment. Researchers have also shown that issues of bias, trust and capability play on students’ minds during self and peer-assessment activities (44). According to Segers and Dochy (2001) students generally found that the process of assessing themselves stimulates their deep-level learning and critical thinking (15).
Similarly, our students believe that self-assessment leads them to gain long-term knowledge as well as that self-assessment enables them to participate actively in assessment and learning activities.
Taken together, our findings indicate that students do have positive attitudes towards self-assessment but negative perceptions towards peer-assessment, because of the lack of objectivity of peer-assessment, and questioning the seriousness of peer feedback and peer-marking. In addition, our study provides evidence that self-assessment leads students to stimulate deep-level learning, and to prepare themselves better for assessment and learning activities. There is still a growing need for literature about student perceptions of self and peer-assessment. Most of the existing studies only aim to evaluate the design and implementation of self and peer-assessment (35, 45). Nicol, Thomson, and Breslin (2014) stated that ‘there is no doubt that more research is required on peer review and its different components, including more studies of students’ experiences, perceptions and responses to the different feedback arrangements that are possible during its implementation’(46).
In conclusion, this study shows that students have a certain justification for both assessments. Students see the positive benefits of self- and peer assessment and positive impact of these assessments on their learning, but they are also aware of the potential disadvantages of these assessments. Therefore, it is important to consider the above mentioned approaches such as transparency, scoring matrix, introduction and training for students and application criteria for implementing these assessments properly into a curriculum.
Overall, the study has provided valuable information. Study limitations include the opinion of students who were in second year of undergraduate medical education and not yet more experienced in one of the self-assessments (formative Medicine Progress Test (PTM)) in comparison to peer-assessment and other self-assessment tests offered by Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (Moodle)